Facebook Launches Its Venmo Competitor, And What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Photo: Drew Angerer, Getty

Facebook, a company best known for its societal fuckery and gross mismanagement of user data, has announced the launch of its Venmo competitor, Facebook Pay. A real treat for anyone looking to share even more of their valuable data with what is arguably one of the most reckless companies in the world.

According to a blog post about the product, Facebook Pay will offer users a way to send money for things like in-app purchases, user-to-user payments, fundraiser donations, and other purchases across Facebook and Messenger, and later Instagram and WhatsApp. PayPal, as well as most major credit and debit cards, are supported by the product, and Facebook says that payments can be processed through partner services like PayPal and Stripe. Users will be able to set it up from the Settings menu for individual apps either app-by-app or across platforms.

Because the guise of “privacy” is currency these days for tech companies hoping to suck up your data, Facebook dedicated an entirely separate blog post to measures it’s taken to secure valuable information about who you bank with, who you send money to, and what you buy using its service. Here, Facebook makes the bold proclamation that, as far as payments go, “security and privacy are paramount. That’s why we take extra steps to protect your payment information.” One would certainly hope this is the baseline standard for one of the most powerful companies in the world, and yet.

The company noted that when accessing the product, users can opt for added security by setting up a PIN or using device biometrics during a Facebook Pay transaction. Evidently realising the next logical question is what it does with that data, Facebook said it “will not receive or store your device’s biometric information.” It will, however, use information about your purchases made with Facebook Pay to serve you ads and other content.

“As with our other products, the actions you take with Facebook Pay can be used for purposes such as to deliver you more relevant content and ads, to provide customer support and to promote safety and integrity (e.g., to investigate violations of our payments policies),” the blog ostensibly about privacy noted. “For example, if you buy a baseball glove on Facebook Marketplace, you might see an ad for a baseball bat.”

Facebook did note that the card and bank account numbers it stores are encrypted and said that information won’t be used to “personalise” the app or serve you ads.

For the exceptionally few who may be wondering how Facebook Pay intersects with Mark Zuckerberg’s embarrassing foray into cryptocurrency, the company did note that the product is separate from the Calibra wallet and its Libra network. This seems wise, given absolutely no one respectable wants to touch this disastrous and highly inadvisable exercise in crypto-world dominance.

Facebook Pay will begin rolling out this week in the U.S. on Facebook and Messenger. Compatibility with Instagram and WhatsApp will join the service as well, though the company did not specify when that will occur. An Australian release is not confirmed.

If handing even more sensitive information over to Facebook than many of us already have sounds like a good idea, then buddy, I’ve got a bridge I’d love to sell ya—cash only, tho.

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